Normal kid, normal life, normal…
What is normal though?
For Sydnie Cote, a 17-year-old junior at Mullan High School living her life as a type 1 diabetic, normal for her has become something that would have pushed most other people over the edge.
Fortunately, Cote is not like most other people.
“It will be five years ago in January that I was diagnosed,” Cote said. “I had thrush in the back of my throat and after visiting a doctor I was diagnosed with diphtheria. After trying the remedy that the doctor’s gave us, my mom decided to get a second opinion and they were able to diagnose me then.”
Since that day Cote has redefined what a regular day looks like for her, which now entails a lot more than it used to.
Each day begins with breakfast, which requires her to count the carbohydrates she consumes to determine how much insulin she needs to give herself all while monitoring her blood sugar.
At 10:15 a.m. Cote gives herself a dose of Levemir, a more long-term form of insulin, unlike the doses she takes after eating which are helpful in the digestion process.
If she has a snack, it’s more carb counting and blood sugar monitoring.
The same goes for lunch, dinner, or anytime that she eats something.
At 10:15 p.m. she takes her second daily dose of Levemir.
Now that doesn’t seem so bad at first glance, but for every time Cote eats, she is required to count the carbs and for every five carbs she consumes she has to inject herself with one unit of insulin.
“I do the injections myself, or there are some friends who can do it for me,” Cote said. “Usually I take them in the back of the arm or in my thighs. Sometimes it hurts, but you get used to it.”
For example, a single serving glass bottle of Nantucket Nectar orange juice contains 59 carbs, which would require Cote to give herself 12 units of insulin.
Cote hasn’t let her diabetes slow her down though, through hard work and by gaining a lot of self knowledge, she has managed to find the necessary balance between how far and hard she can push herself and knowing when it’s time to slow down and take care of herself.
“I have to take more time than other people do for some things,” Cote said. “If I have high blood sugar, it gets hard to focus, read, or even see things, so I can take myself out of class or away from what I’m doing and drink some water and take some insulin to bring it back down.”
Coping with type 1 diabetes is not easy, there is a physical demand, where it attacks your body and its motor skills which results in needles and injections, but there is a mental and emotional side that can be crippling as well, which is what Cote has found to be of the utmost importance.
“I personally think the most frustrating part of diabetes is the emotional toll it can take,” Cote said. “If I’m having a day where my blood sugar is going from high to low, high to low, keeping your emotions stable is difficult. Normally I have good days, but when I have one of my three normal bad days in a year it gets really hard. You want to bottle everything up because you don’t want to be a burden, but it is important to have someone you trust that you can tell them when something doesn’t feel right. For me, that’s my mom, it is important that I tell her what is going on so she can be aware and help me make sure I’m not ignoring something that I shouldn’t be.”
At Mullan High School, they have gone above and beyond to accommodate Cote, which is something Cote and her mom, Tonia Foster, are very thankful for.
“If I have to step out of class to take care of myself, they allow me to make up the missed work,” Cote said. “The school has made sure to have extra supplies in case I need them.”
“Mr. K (Don Kotschevar) has done a great job of making sure that he and his staff are as up to date on ways to help Sydnie as possible and they have done a great job of making her feel comfortable so that she can take care of herself without worrying about being a burden,” Foster said. “Even the new lunch program took Sydnie’s diabetes into account and they have made sure that there are lower carb options for her there. We are really happy with the way the school has rallied around her.”
According to Foster, the school’s staff even took care classes from Sydnie’s endocrinologist (a physician who specializes in treating disorders of the endocrine system, such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and many others) in Spokane so they have a firm grasp and understanding of what she is dealing with.
As an athlete at Mullan, Cote has also learned how to manage her diabetes around strenuous practice and game schedules when she competes on the Tiger volleyball team.
With Nov. 14, being World Diabetes Day, the school will be honoring Cote throughout the day and will also have an assembly discussing diabetes.
Diabetes hasn’t beaten Sydnie Cote, it has empowered her.
Following high school, Cote already knows what she plans on doing.
“I’m going to become an endocrinologist,” Cote said. “I want to be able to help people who struggle with the same thing I have struggled with. I think with my experiences already, it would be a good fit and it will also keep me learning things that could help myself.”